Intermittent fasting is a popular dieting buzzword, but there is often confusion around the term and how effective it really is. Looking at intermittent Fasting Success Stories from real people who’ve done it is a great way to understand whether it could be right for you.
You may even be wondering “what is intermittent fasting?” and “is fasting good for you?” In this article we’ll look to cover those questions and many more.
Specifically we’ll look at:
- The many different types of intermittent fasting
- Pros and Cons
- How it fits in with exercise
- Further reading
Read through, or use the links below to jump ahead:
- 0.1 Different Types of Intermittent Fasting Diets
- 0.2 Intermittent Fasting Pros and Cons
- 0.3 Intermittent Fasting Pre Workout
- 1 Intermittent Fasting Success Stories
Different Types of Intermittent Fasting Diets
There are a few variations of modern intermittent fasting diets, which we’ll cover in a second, but before we do it’s worth thinking about fasting in a broader historical context.
Fasting is not new.
In the animal kingdom it is perfectly normal for calorie intake to go up and down over the course of the year as the seasons change and different foods become available.
Ancient hunter gatherers would have had periods of amble, and others when it was in short supply. And our bodies are perfectly capable of dealing with that.
As this article from ScientificAmerican.com puts it “from an evolutionary perspective, three meals a day is a strange modern invention”.
Similarly, fasting has been part of organised religion for hundreds (if not thousands!) of years. Most of the major world regions include some type of fasting as part of their festivals.
So it is safe to say that fasting is likely to do you more harm than good.
Popular Modern Fasting Diets
In recent years four popular methods of intermittent fast have emerged.
- LeanGains – Fasting for a set number of hours each day (Men – 16 hours, Women – 14 hours) during which you consume zero calories.
- Eat Stop Eat – This involves fasting for a full 24 hour period once or twice a week. On your fast days you consume zero calories but are allowed drinks such as water and black coffee.
- 5:2 Diet – For five days each week you eat normally, and on the other two days you cut your calorie intake down to 600 calories (men) or 500 calories (women).
- ADF fasting – Alternate Day fasting is similar to the 5:2 Diet but more intense. As the name suggests, you eat normally on alternate days, and fast on the days in between. On the fast days you should cut your calorie intake to roughly 500 calories.
This article on DailyBurn gives more info on different types of intermittent fast.
Whichever method you choose, sticking with a healthy 500 calorie diet on a temporary basis will usually yield great results.
Intermittent Fasting Pros and Cons
There are obvious benefits to intermittent fasting, but it is certainly not all plain sailing and it is important that you consider both sides of the story before you decide whether it is right for you.
Health Benefits of Fasting
Some of the key benefits to intermittent fasting include:
- Weight loss – One of the most noticeable benefits and the reason that most people experiment with intermittent fasting is rapid weight loss. Limiting your calorie intake to well below your BMR means that over even a short period of time you will notice an impressive drop in weight.
- Detox – Reducing calorie intake forces your body to burn fat reserves for energy. During this process, toxins that were stored in the fat are broken down and expelled.
- Improved immune system – The cleaning out process also extends to your immune system as your body burns old or damaged immune cells and generates new ones.
- Increases your lifespan – As Dr Michael Mosley, author of the The Fast Diet, showed in his BBC documentary “Eat, Fast and Live Longer”, fasting can have a positive effect on your life expectancy.
- Mood – The detoxification process can cause an increase in feel-good hormones and there is some evidence to suggest that while intermittent fasting, depression sufferers cited improved mood.
Other benefits include improved sensitivity to insulin, which helps to lower your risk of diabetes, and reduced cholesterol. Check out this article on Medical News Today for more of the science behind these benefits.
Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting
- Stress – In direct contrast to the point on improved mood above, the initial challenge of limiting your calorie intake to such an extreme extent can put a strain on your will power and increase your stress levels.
- Dehydration – Research has shown that many people experience dehydration while fasting, most likely as a result of not making up for the liquid that would usually have been consumed through food. It is therefore especially important that you increase your water intake on fast days to make up for this.
- Headaches – Stress and dehydration can have knock on effects, with some people stating that they experienced headaches more frequently.
- Binge eating – If the stress of fasting becomes too much, people can sometimes give up on the fast days and resort to overeating to fill the void
We have written a few times about tips to get through the low calorie days, check them out here.
Many people struggle initially, but crafting a 500 calorie meal plan ahead of starting the diet can really help to make it easier. Similarly, if you’re struggling to make this type of diet work at 500 calories a day, you could start with 800 calories.
Intermittent Fasting Pre Workout
One specific concern that people often have is how the low calorie intake will impact their workouts. People think that fasting can affect their energy levels while they are in the gym, and cause them to lose lean muscle mass.
While there is some truth to both these concerns, they can definitely be overcome.
Firstly, depending on the type of intermittent fast diet you are using, it is possible to avoid this issue altogether by planning your workouts around your fast days or vice versa. For example, if you are trying something like the 5:2 diet, simply workout on the days that you are not fasting.
If you are on a stricter diet, or you insist on working out on fast days, keep the following in mind:
- It can be hard – Working out when you’re running on empty can be really difficult. If you haven’t eaten you aren’t giving your body the fuel it needs and you will most likely feel weak and sluggish. This can make your workouts ineffective and unpleasant.
- One tip is to control the intensity. Do less intense workouts while you’re fasting, and save the big sessions for when you’ve eaten.
- Not all weight loss is good – If your body isn’t getting sufficient energy from food it will look to other possible energy sources. First it burns fat reserves, which sounds like a good thing but then it starts to breakdown muscle.
- Losing muscle mass is doubly bad as it will make you start to look skinny and weak, and it also decreases your basal metabolic rate, meaning that you will have to do more exercise each day just to burn the same number of calories.
- To overcome this, make sure you are including plenty of protein in your diet, either through lean meats or shakes. Also, try not to overdo your workouts, pushing your body past the fat burn into the point that it starts to breakdown muscle.
- Time your meals – If you are on a fast that isn’t zero calories, then try to eat before, or immediately after your workout. This will ensure that you have some energy to workout, or allow you to replenish your energy stores and aid recovery post workout.
- On most IF diets, very small amounts of food, or low calorie supplements, are fine to take pre-workout so long as you avoid spiking your insulin levels.
- Different types of IF diets advocate different types of exercise routines and timings, with some allowing small pre-workout meals. For instance, if you read through the “key points” on the LeanGains.com guide page, it gives a good overview of how much you should be eating depending on when you choose to workout.
It goes without saying that whatever diet you are experimenting with make sure you are staying properly hydrated. Drinking lots of water is really important anyway, but especially important if you are limiting your calorie intake.
Similarly, if you experience any dizziness, or feel faint while you’re exercising, something isn’t right. Stop what you’re doing, have something to eat and drink and revisit your plan.
Intermittent Fasting Success Stories
Often a key part of finding the motivation to stick with a diet, or lifestyle change, is having the confidence that it is going to work. Reading success stories from people who have been there and done it is an excellent way of convincing yourself that it is possible.
If they can do it, why can’t you?
Below we’ve picked a selection of success stories from across the web, looking at different people from different countries who have found different intermittent fasting routines that worked for them. As is hopefully clear from the information above, this isn’t a one size fits all type diet, and by experimenting with various approaches you are more likely to settle on something that you can stick with for the long term.
5:2 Diet (The Fast Diet)
This article from the Daily Mail in the UK profiles three women in the UK who all underwent a successful intermittent fasting transformation. In their own words they talk about their weight and medical conditions prior to starting on the 5:2 Diet and how it subsequently changed their life.
- Tanya Emmons, 42 – Lost over 70lbs and now runs 5k twice a week
- Linda Christie, 65 – Lost over 30lbs and runs two miles to the local cinema every week
- Terri Durrant, 56 – Gradually went from size 16/18 clothes (UK) down to a size 12!
The Fast Diet website has its own Success Stories thread, which contains over 150 posts of people talking about the trials and tribulations of the diet.
There are so many encouraging stories on there, but I will share one:
User “Geko” decided that she didn’t want to be fat at 50, and in 2013 set a New Year’s resolution that she would lose weight before her birthday in July. She struggled through January, watching what she ate, but without much of a plan.
In early Feb she watched Michael Moseley’s documentary, and over the next 4 months went on to lose 29lbs. She describes the diet as “revolutionary, life changing and certainly my lifestyle choice. It is what was said and more -extremely easy, flexible, saves $ and every time I weigh myself and see a decrease it feels like a miracle.”
This blog follows the interesting and inspirational story of a woman who found intermittent fasting by chance and was so amazed by the fantastic results that she started following IF more seriously. In 2012 Mimi weighed close to 240lbs, and although not religious, she became interested in the Islamic festival of Ramadan, during which people refrain from eating in daylight hours.
She since incorporated fasting into her lifestyle and has lost over 70lbs! Read the full story here.
Malan Darras – LeanGains
This excellent post shows the excellent intermittent fasting transformation of Malan, and highlights that it doesn’t have to be all about weight loss. You can follow an IF regime while still building a muscular physique.
If you’re worried about becoming too skinny and losing all your muscle while you fast, definitely check this out.
Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting
Bulletproof IF is the same as other forms, except that you have a Bulletproof coffee in the morning, which contains a specific mix of fats that help to keep you energized during the fast.
This page tells the story of Zach who lost 1lb per day for 75 days while following the fat loss protocol. Beyond the weight loss benefits “his focus improved, he was more alert, and he never felt deprived”.
The Iron Samurai
This is another example of a success story from a slightly different perspective. Nick had previously been focused on strength training, with little regard for his waistline. But he decided to make a change to his lifestyle to lose some weight for his wedding.
Nick makes a great point about the benefits of fasting when he says “I don’t want to be restricted in either my options or portions. This is why I gravitated so comfortably to the idea of fasting”.
This excellent page gives a full run down of how he lost the weight, including meal and workout plans.
Intermittent Fasting Books
(This section includes affiliate links to the books on Amazon.com)
If you are looking for further reading, there are several good books available that cover intermittent fasting from different angles:
- The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting – Explains the various ways to fast and how to do it properly. Also looks at how to prevent the potential downsides to fasting.
- The Scientific Approach to Intermittent Fasting – Goes into the science behind intermittent fasting and why it works. Also covers many of the misconceptions about fasting.
Over to you…
Hopefully this article gives you enough information about what intermittent fasting is, the pros and cons, and examples from people who have done it, to make your mind up about whether this is right for you.
Take your time exploring the links and references throughout the article if you need any more info.
There is no one size fits all, so it’s important that you consider all your options and are willing to try out different regimes, refining as you go.
If you are experiencing any of the adverse side effects you may need to tweak the types of foods that you are eating, the volume of calories consumed and the length of the fast until you find the right balance for you.
As always, if you have any pre-existing medical conditions you should consult a doctor before making any major changes to your diet.
Best of luck, and let us know how you get on!